On January 22 Roe v. Wade, the landmark US Supreme Court decision that protects a woman’s option to have an abortion through her right to privacy, turns 40.
And what do you know--she landed the cover of Time magazine.
What does this mean? How has Roe aged? Or more importantly how have pro-choice movements aged?
As 30 Rock’s Liz Lemon sagely explains, aging is a choice:
You can try to fight getting older. You can be like Madonna, and cling to youth with your Gollum arms. Or you can be like Meryl Streep and embrace your age with elegance.
Kate Pickert’s article in part suggests that the pro-choice movement is clinging to the
rhetoric of its youth, Gollum arms and all.
Former Catholics for Choice president, Frances Kissling tells Pickert:
The established pro-choice position--which essentially is: abortion should be legal, a private matter between a woman and her doctor, with no restriction or regulation beyond what is absolutely necessary to protect the woman's health--makes 50% of the population extremely uncomfortable and unwilling to associate with us.
As opposed to anti-choice movements’ more rhetorically flexible language and strategies which, for example, framed restrictions on abortion clinics as improving the safety of clinics, pro-choice advocates keep using the same basic logic and lines, Pickert reports.
Loretta Ross, co-founder of an Atlanta-based reproductive-rights group can’t help but admire such responsiveness—even if it does come from the opposition:
The entire women's-health movement was predicated on the lack of women's safety and gender consciousness in health care settings…It is a classic example of our opponents learning from us and taking our script.
But Pickert’s piece also provides an alternative, elegant, Streep-vision of an aging pro-choice movement: reproductive justice.
Young abortion-rights activists have a strategy to modernize the cause, which includes expanding it. They often don't even mention the term pro-choice, which they say is limiting and outdated. Instead these young leaders have embraced a cause known as reproductive justice--a broader, more diffuse agenda that addresses abortion access but also contraception, child care, gay rights, health insurance and economic opportunity. "It's a more holistic frame," says [Erin Matson, former VP of NOW]. "And you see younger people connecting with that."
Well said. It’s not just about protecting one procedure, but making sure we provide enough support and education (comprehensive sex education, anyone?) to make sure women and men make the best, healthiest choices for themselves.
Be sure to check out Pickert's whole article (sadly, it's hidden behind a paywall...) and let us know what you think!